The message was from my cousin Janis, who had been sending me messages through Facebook for quite some time before I even realized she was "that Janis". My mother's sister Carley's daughter Janis. I haven't seen her in several decades, and didn't recognize her last name.
I am in a hotel room in Moncton. My mother had a massive heart attack, Wednesday, up on Georgian Bay. This is now Friday. I found out this morning, through Facebook.
I called my brother in Toronto this morning, about 2 seconds after reading the message. And it went something like this:
Brother: Hello. (sleepily)
Me: Why am I getting Facebook messages that say, "sorry about your mom"?
Brother: Didn't you get my message?
Me: Apparently not. I am in Moncton. What happened to Mom?
Brother: Oh, I left you a message Thursday afternoon, saying mom had a massive heart attack Wednesday and was shipped down to the intensive care in Kitchener.
Me: So, Mom has a heart attack Wednesday and you leave me a message Thursday afternoon? How fucked up is that!?
Brother: You go to bed early. I didn't want to wake you. You're an hour ahead.
Me: You weren't calling to chat about the Leaf's game! I think under these circumstances it's ok to wake someone up... on a Wednesday afternoon.
Brother: I didn't find out until Wednesday night.
Me: Oh. So when I didn't respond, did you not think to maybe to call my cell, or send me a text, or maybe an email? I'm in Moncton. Mom's been lying there since Wednesday with the phone not ringing.
Brother: There are no phones in the ICU.
Me: Is she going to be okay?
Brother: She needs a quadruple bypass.
Me: I doubt they'll do a quadruple bypass on a serial chain smoker.
Brother: I gave her nicotine patches for Mother's Day. She's not smoking any more.
Me: You gave her nicotine patches for Mother's Day?
Brother: Ya. She sounds surprisingly good.
Me: What do you mean, she sounds good? You haven't gone to see her yet?
I am in a shitty hotel room in Moncton. Overnight, it went from a balmy autumn, to a winter wonderland. I am here without a warm coat or gloves.
I am totally unprepared.
For decades, I have been waiting for my mother to apologize for "dropping the maternal ball". Opening a dialogue with two words.
We are the Royal Tenenbaums, minus the childhood success, a fur coat, and a character or two. I am Margot –although not adopted – even though it has always felt that way.
Mrs. Tenenbaum: Well, I don't think it's very intelligent to keep an electrical gadget on the edge of the tub.
Margot: [in bath] I tie it to the radiator.
I haven't laid eyes on my mother in over ten years. I called the hospital in Kitchener to see how she was doing, and a nurse handed her the phone. My brother was right – she sounded good. I told her about my Facebook message, and how funny and screwed up it was that I had to find out that way – and she laughed. She said she always thought a heart attack sent a shooting pain down your arm, but this was right in the middle of her chest. And how after calling 911 she didn't have time to grab her makeup, but she had lipstick and mascara delivered to the ICU. And the food was bland, so she asked for salt, but they gave her something called Mrs. Dash. She even laughed when I asked if the ambulance had maybe, with any luck, run over her dog. I hate her dog. I also have spent most of my adult life being angry at her.
She dropped the ball. My parents both dropped the ball.
I am alone, in a shitty motel in Moncton.
Maybe it's time for me to kick it out of the way and move on.